Taking blood pressure


Roundup: COVID-19 Linked to Higher Risk of High Blood Pressure Than the Flu; These Exercises Help Fight Hypertension; and More News

COVID-19 Linked to Higher Risk of Developing High Blood Pressure, Compared to the Flu

COVID-19 could raise your risk of developing high blood pressure more than the flu, which is a similar respiratory virus, according to an analysis published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension. The findings were described as “alarming” by the study’s lead author.

The study is believed to be the first to focus on high blood pressure in people infected with COVID-19, compared to those who had the flu. High blood pressure, or hypertension, refers to having top and bottom numbers greater than or equal to 130/80 mm Hg.

“Given the sheer number of people affected by COVID-19 compared to influenza, these statistics are alarming and suggest that many more patients will likely develop high blood pressure in the future, which may present a major public health burden,” said the study's senior author, Tim Q. Duong, in a statement. He is a professor of radiology and vice chair for radiology research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System in New York. “These findings should heighten awareness to screen at-risk patients for hypertension after COVID-19 illness to enable earlier identification and treatment for hypertension-related complications, such as cardiovascular and kidney disease.”

Researchers reviewed data from electronic medical records at the Montefiore Health System in Bronx, New York, which serves a large, racially and ethnically diverse population. The study included 45,398 people with COVID-19 — hospitalized between March 1, 2020 and February 20, 2022 — and 13,864 people with influenza without COVID-19 — hospitalized between January 2018 and February 20, 2022. They all returned to the hospital system for medical reasons within an average follow-up period of six months.

The analysis found that patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were more than twice as likely to “develop persistent hypertension” than those in the hospital with the flu virus, says a news release from the American Heart Association (AHA). People infected with COVID-19 who were not hospitalized were 1.5 times more likely to develop persistent hypertension than their flu counterparts.

People with COVID-19 at higher risk of developing high blood pressure “were older, male, Black or had preexisting conditions such as coronary artery disease or chronic kidney disease,” the AHA states.

Researchers find that Isometric Exercise – Wall Squats, Planking -- Best for Lowering Blood Pressure

Regular exercise, especially a combination of aerobic and muscle-strengthening routines, can lower blood pressure without medication and is often prescribed by doctors for hypertensive patients. A new review of studies has found that static isometric exercises, those that involve engaging muscles without movement --such as wall sitting or “wall squats” and planking – may be best for lowering blood pressure.

Wall squats, or "wall sitting."

Many previous studies have found that exercise overall is good for cardiovascular health and is associated with significant reductions in blood pressure, with aerobic or ’cardio’ exercise being primarily recommended. But the authors of the new study wanted to determine more specifically which exercise could be best for hypertension.

Researchers from the Canterbury Christ Church University in the U.K. reviewed databases looking for clinical trials reporting the effects of an exercise training intervention lasting two or more weeks on resting blood pressure. The results, based on 270 randomized trials with close to 16,000 participants,  were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The exercise interventions were classified as aerobic (‘cardio’), dynamic resistance training, a combination of these, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), and isometric exercises.

Healthy resting blood pressure was defined as a reading below 130/85 mmHg; pre-high blood pressure as 130–139/85–89 mmHg; and high blood pressure as 140/90 mmHg or more.

“The pooled data analysis showed significant reductions in resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure after all the various categories of exercise, but with the largest falls in both systolic (the top blood pressure reading) and diastolic blood pressure after isometric exercise training,” said the study’s authors in a news release.


Isometric exercise was the most effective, reducing systolic blood pressure by 8 points and diastolic blood pressure by 4 points, the researchers said. Planking can also help strengthen core muscles and can contribute to improved spine health.

Having hypertension puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the U.S. Nearly half of adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, defined as a systolic blood pressure greater than 130 mmHg (the top number) or a diastolic blood pressure greater than 80 mmHg.

NIH Opens Enrollment for ‘Long COVID’ Clinical Trials Involving Potential Treatments

This month, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) started enrollment for phase 2 clinical trials that will evaluate at least four potential treatments for long COVID, broadly defined as signs, symptoms, and conditions that continue or develop over weeks or months following initial COVID-19 infection.

Meanwhile, a new study has found that those who even had mild cases of COVID-19 are at heightened risk two years later for lung problems, diabetes, chronic fatigue and other health problems typical of “Long COVID.” The analysis, published in the journal Nature Medicine, is believed to be the first to document the extent of COVID’s lingering symptoms.

The NIH states that treatments tested long COVID in the clinical trials will include drugs, biologics, medical devices and other therapies. Researchers seek to evaluate multiple treatments simultaneously to identify more swiftly those that are effective. Additional clinical trials to test at least seven more treatments are expected in the coming months, the NIH said.

Part of the NIH’s Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) Initiative, the new trials will use findings from other RECOVER research over the past two years, “and focus on several of the symptoms described as most burdensome by people experiencing long COVID,” the NIH said in a news release.

“We know that when patients are suffering, we can never move fast enough,” said Acting NIH Director Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., in a statement. “NIH is committed to a highly coordinated and scientifically rigorous approach to find treatments that will provide relief for the millions of people living with long COVID.”

The initial stage of the RECOVER involved launching large observational studies examining and following people infected with COVID-19 to learn why some develop long-term symptoms while others recover completely. These studies are ongoing and have recruited more than 24,000 participants to date.

“Hundreds of RECOVER investigators and research participants are working hard to uncover the biologic causes of long COVID. The condition affects nearly all body systems and presents with more than 200 symptoms,” said Walter J. Koroshetz, M.D., director of the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and co-lead of the RECOVER Initiative, in a statement.

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